One of the most amazing verses in the Bible is Isaiah 30:21 – Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” As a prophet from God, Isaiah brought a challenge of enormous proportions to the people of Israel. God said they were an obstinate people who had for centuries had his guidance and protection but had thrown it all away to trust in tenuous alliances with neighbouring powers.
Amidst Isaiah’s condemnation of God’s people were interspersed little gems of hope. God had not given up on them and was offering them hope, such as is found in this verse. It speaks of a time when people will be so attuned to God that they will hear his quiet voice behind them. There is here a promise of hearing for a people who God was saying had been deaf to his voice for so long.
Many things can drown out the soft voice of God. We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t just shout from heaven and get the attention of all people, but that’s really not his way. He is like a lover wooing people, whispering, cajoling, beckoning. This verse tells us that God is speaking behind us as we go. We have the picture here of someone stepping out on a journey, not sure of which direction to take, but confident that as they go they will be directed. This verse doesn’t say that God will be in front, leading the way. It says that it is in the decisions that we make in our lives that God has the opportunity to speak.
All people long for security; to be sure of where we’re going in life, but it is rarely that way. This verse promises us that it is in the going, in the decision-making, in the stepping out into life that we will be guided by the soft voice of God whispering in our ears; “this is the way, walk in it.”
The confidence to walk through life in this manner doesn’t come easily. It is developed over time. We can doubt the voice of God in our ear and so don’t make a decision, or we doubt the decisions we make. This verse says to me that as we learn to listen for the voice of God we will begin to be more and more discerning so that we can in confidence trust the decisions we make, sure that it is God speaking to our hearts about a variety of things.
What if we make a mistake and the way we chose doesn’t turn out to be a good or helpful path? Well, we get the chance to change direction. It is in the stepping out, it is in the going that we learn to trust that soft voice of God directing us from behind. This is real confidence and faith in God. It is scary at times, it can take us places we never anticipated, but it is exciting and whole new vistas open up for us as we step out and listen.